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Monday, October 25, 2021
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Movie Monday: Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda is the story of a panda named Po (voice of Jack Black), whose father, Mr. Ping (voice of James Hong) runs a noodle shop and anticipates that his son will follow in his footsteps. Po, however, secretly yearns to join the “Furious Five,” which includes characters named Monkey (Jackie Chan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), in kung fu combat.

The entire village climbs seemingly endless stairs to the ancient temple where the kung fu warriors train, to learn who will be chosen by Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), master of the ancient temple, to be the Dragon Warrior and gain the secret power of the Dragon Scroll.

Po barely makes it up the stairs only to have the gates of the temple closed before he can reach them; he eventually catapults himself into the center of the temple square and is, of course, chosen as the dragon warrior, much to the dismay of the Furious Five. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who trained the Furious Five, at first tries to drive away Po, but Oogway assures Shifu that Po is destined to be Dragon Warrior, then dies, leaving Shifu determined to train Po. 

Meanwhile, the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escapes from the supposedly inescapable prison, the Furious Five sets out to defeat Tai Lung and instead are themselves defeated. Po discovers that there is no secret contained in the Dragon Scroll; the power is to believe in himself. Armed with this newfound knowledge, he confronts and, of course, defeats Tai Lung.

Some of the images produced for this movie are truly beautiful, and certain scenes have positive messages, such as Shifu’s decision to build on Po’s strengths and Po’s determination to never give up. The Furious Five comes to accept Po by the end of the story, and the main characters all have moments of self-realization. 

Sadly, the underlying themes of this story include constant references to Po being fat and suggest that his incompetence is a direct result of his size. The movie is filled with violent action scenes, both as slapstick attempts at humor and during the fight scenes. While most of the fighting is restricted to the Furious Five, Po, Shifu, and Tai Lung, during one scene Tai Lung lays waste to the entire contingent of guards posted at the prison. 

Tai Lung’s glowing yellow eyes are a little spooky for some kids, and many of the scenes are, if not scary, at least startling (especially at the volume of sound encountered in the typical movie theater!) The movie ends on a positive note, and contains very little offensive language (at most, you’ll hear the word  “stupid” and “idiot.”)>While not particularly good or funny, the movie is harmless.

By Suzanne Frazier

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